ERASTINA PLACE, Mariners Harbor

by Kevin Walsh

Erastina Place isn’t easy to find, way out on Staten Island’s north shore in Mariners Harbor. You have to travel all the way down Richmond terrace past the Bayonne Bridge, turn left at De Hart Avenue, make another left on Orinoco Place, ignore the “No Outlet” signs and head up to Erastina Place, which is a lengthy dead end. It’s lined with one-family houses on individual plots. Why take note of this unusually-named street? It’s the last remnant of Buffalo Bill’s wild West Show, which played Mariners Harbor in 1886 and 1888 for crowds that totaled over a million in can era when NYC’s population was only two million.

First, the unusual name. In 1883, Erastus Wiman, in partnership with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, built a line to South Beach and along the North Shore, in addition to the already-existing Staten Island Rapid Transit, which began under Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1851.

By 1885, what would become the SIRT was complete, with the completion of the tunnel between Stapleton and the St. George Ferry. The ferry terminal opened in 1897 (the present-day terminal was constructed in 2005 after a fire destroyed the 1946 terminal, which in turn replaced the original, also destroyed by a blaze).

In 1886, partially as a way to promote the new railroad, Wiman opened an exhibition space called Erastina Woods, and one of the first attractions was the William “Buffalo Bill” Cody‘s Wild West Show, which had first played in Omaha, NE in 1883. It was “an outdoor extravaganza which featured historical reenactments, rodeo events, shooting exhibitions, and generally any impressive act that could conceivably depict life in the wild west. Cody’s exhibition traveled for thirty years, including a total of ten years in Europe, and was seen by hundreds of thousands of people. Cody’s idea of a traveling western circus was recreated by many other show business entrepreneurs, including quite a few of his star acts.” [Mentalfloss].

It was a fine spectacle but not without taking liberties with the facts: Native Americans were always portrayed as aggressive and warlike; and performers such as Annie Oakley were introduced as having lived on the frontier their entire lives. Oakley, who appeared at Erastina in 1886, was born in Ohio and despite her shooting prowess, had never seen the West before joining Buffalo Bill’s show.

Today, the dead-end Erastina Place is the last remnant of the Buffalo Bill spectacular. Wiman is also recalled by the dead-end Wiman Place in Clifton, several miles away.

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Edward December 17, 2018 - 9:19 pm

Thanks Kevin. Having grown up in Mariners Harbor in the late 1970s-early ’80s, I distinctly remember wandering the neighborhood and being pleasantly surprised by how quaint and quiet Erastina Place was (at least back then; not so sure about today).

FYI, the St. George Ferry Terminal was indeed renovated in the early 2000s, but not because of any fire. The 1946-era terminal was beyond bedraggled and really needed an update. The present terminal is actually a heavily face-lifted version of the 1946 structure, with a few additions to the main terminal, and renovated bus ramps and SIRT platforms. The Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan did burn down in a spectacular 1991 blaze, and wasn’t totally replaced until 2005, hence the confusion.

ronald s December 18, 2018 - 11:00 am

Somehow this stands out as one of the most fascinating stories of FNY (and there have been many).

Denise Connors December 19, 2018 - 11:41 am

This was my block to play on. I lived on Van Pelt was always on Erastina Place. More kids to hang out with. We played stick ball dodge ball jumped rope hide and seek and many more so many memories where made there and so many friends.

Eric December 22, 2018 - 8:51 am

I grew up on Erastina place. So many great memories

Anonymous March 31, 2020 - 12:07 am

Researching a woman who was a career performer, she was engaged with Adam Forepaugh’s circus in the 1887 season. They before touring that summer, they opened up June 28, 1887 on Erastina Place. Interestingly Forepaugh’s featured their own “Wild West” segment here and through their season.


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